U.S. to increase intel sharing with France

BY    | Updated: Nov 16, 2015 at 1:58 PM
People hold hands to form a human solidarity chain near the site of the attack at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, November 15, 2015. Photo by Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

People hold hands to form a human solidarity chain near the site of the attack at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, Nov. 15, 2015. After the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris, the U.S. announced it would share more intelligence with France. Photo by Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration announced Monday a new intelligence-sharing arrangement with France designed to more readily and quickly allow joint military planning in the campaign against the Islamic State.

After President Barack Obama announced the arrangement to reporters in Turkey, the Pentagon issued a statement saying that Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper have authorized military personnel to share information quickly with their French counterparts.

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said the action was taken in light of the terror attacks in Paris. French warplanes bombed Islamic State targets in Syria Sunday in close cooperation with the U.S. military.

Cook did not provide details about the kinds of intelligence that would be shared but said the new instructions build on efforts made over the past year to work more closely with French military, intelligence and security services to target the Islamic State.

Current and former American intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said Washington already maintains extremely close counter terrorism cooperation with Paris. The new sharing mainly involves military intelligence in Syria and Iraq, they said. Bureaucratic hurdles slow the exchange of such information, even among allies.

The new arrangement would allow the U.S. to share intelligence with France that previously has been limited to what’s known as the “Five Eyes” of English-speaking countries – the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The intelligence would allow France to increase its ability to identify and propose targets to be hit by airstrikes, officials say.

France is not a member of the Five Eyes and will not become one, officials say. Those countries maintain near-universal sharing of electronic eavesdropping and other intelligence, and tend not to spy on one another.

Close allies though they may be, France and the U.S. have a history of spying on one another. Documents leaked by Edward Snowden disclosed American eavesdropping on French officials, and the French for years have carried out economic spying against the U.S., American officials have said.

Large segments of the French public also were disturbed by Snowden revelations of French cooperation with American mass surveillance, which complicated the intelligence relationship.

Just because information is shared does not mean it is always acted upon.

A senior Turkish official, for example, tells The Associated Press that his country shared information last year and in June about Omar Ismail Mostefai, who has been named as one of the Paris attackers. Mostefai entered Turkey in 2013, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. Turkey never heard back from France, the official said.

Associated Press writers Robert Burns, Lolita C. Baldor and Desmond Butler contributed to this story.